Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Combating the Passion of Anger 3 — The Proper Use of Anger

In the last post, we discussed the easiest way to reject a tempting thought: to turn to the words of the Jesus Prayer.

Now we are going to discuss a far more difficult method. We don’t actually want to put this method into practice; however, it is important that we understand it.

This new method is the use of anger against the tempting thought. We have said that anger is a passion. We have been discussing how to combat anger. Now we are saying that we should use anger against the tempting thought. Are we not contradicting ourselves?

Here is a very important point. All the passions are distortions of an impulse implanted in us by God for our good. That is, all the passions have their good side. That is why we can be virtuous. The virtues are nothing other than the impulses that we call passions when those impulses are operating according to nature.

So the virtue related to anger is itself a sort of anger. What sort? It is an anger against the demons and against sin, and, when we are sinful, against ourselves (but not in excess). That is why God implanted the impulse of anger in us: so that we might get angry against sin.

Now the classical way to use anger against sin is to speak a word of anger against the demon that is tempting us. This is a very delicate matter, for if we fly into a rage against the demon, against sin or against ourselves, we will only damage ourselves, perhaps very seriously. We must make a controlled use of anger against the demons, against sin.

We will speak in the next post about the demons.

St John of Sinai tells us in the Ladder of Divine Ascent that only the more advanced Hesychast has the strength to use the method of anger against the demons. That is why we do not want our blog readers to try it. You have to be more advanced. However, it is important for us to understand this method, because its existence tells us much about Orthodox ascetical psychology.

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